Sunday, 19 October 2008

Please Burn After Reading

The intro to the positive Phillip French review of Burn After Reading reads: A cast of morally bankrupt Americans descend into paranoia and madness in the Coens' brilliantly contrived comedy-thriller.

He's so very wrong.

This is the Coen Brothers worst film, is easily the worst film I've seen all year in the cinema and is high on the worst films on the decade.

I've defended the Coen brothers and their weaker films, defended Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, found many good things in them. I love Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Big Lebowski among others. I'm a huge fan. Yet this film is taking the piss. I now know what those Star Wars fans meant by the "raping my childhood" line. Although this is more molesting my teenage auteur discovery-type of thing.

First thing I want to know if they were drunk when writing and directing this. I wonder because the script just wanders from scene to scene without any interest in plot or character. Actions occur, we having many scenes that simply wander without interest through locations without curiosity to what goes on with character. The film is incredibly tolerant of boredom. All the plots end up combining in ways that are obvious from the get-go and the film then ends, many characters left off-screen for their pay-off, like someone just turned off the light and went home, utterly disgusted.

The writing is better than the direction. There is no unconventional sequences, intriguing moments. The images are flat and vague. On the rare occasion that they use cinematic storytelling it seems like a rip-off of fifties Hitchcock rather than a bounce from it for some individualistic insanity. For example there's one repeating location, a park, which has various meetings, crying out for some visual imagination. Yet it remains a boring park. Inter-cutting between characters in scenes are awkward, ill-paced and ugly at times.

The acting is dire, especially from Malkovich, who doesn't even try. He's like a bad, bored Deniro performance, yet somehow tops late-era DeNiro in how vague, uninspired and deeply annoying one actor can be on the screen. Everyone is playing idiots yet all are painfully one-dimensional and almost impossible to give life to (Clooney's distinguishing feature is in regard to a sex-toy, which is an awful joke). Which leads to the dialogue, usually the Coen strong-point, here being TV-movie like, directed to monotone in many scenes, no-one seeming to be paying attention, acting scenes unshaped to give specific beats, are simply read without focus.

This is such a wretched mess that I'm furious that the Coens' are responsible.

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